I planned and God laughed.
This is truly the story of my life. More often than not, when I plan—or rather, dream and wish, life brings me other plans I didn’t wish for or dream of. As a result, I’ve become quite good at making lemonade with all the lemons life has thrown at me. However, I now see my life incidents were not lemons at all. They simply felt that way at the time.
I didn’t wish to carry children in my womb, yet I carried two.
I never dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, yet I now cherish the opportunity.
I never wished for my kids to be raised without school, yet it happened.
I’ve never considered writing a book, yet here I am spilling my stories to you.
What did I dream and wish for? What were my heart’s desires? I wanted a princess wedding and the opportunity to work as a teacher helping kids in the pediatric ward at a hospital. Neither dream came true.
But I would be a liar if I pretended none of my dreams were realized. I always wanted to grow my family through adoption and not conception. And I strongly wanted to come to America to be immersed in the English language. I am so grateful these two events happened.
Why I Wrote 18
This book focused on unschooling. But its purpose is not to teach you how to unschool. Rather, it is to show you what unschooling looks like in one particular family. If you want to learn how to unschool, I strongly suggest John Holt’s books or other books more specific on how to unschool. We’re all different, and the more you read about unschooling, the better understanding you'll have. My book is my personal story as an unschooling mom.
Never in a million years did I plan or dream to stay home with my kids and homeschool them instead of entering the workforce. I feel exactly like Glennon Doyle explains in her book Untamed, in which she reveals that she is like the cheetah who was tamed to act like a Labrador and finally untamed herself.
I was tamed to go to college and get a job. I did both and became a very successful working mom. I sent my kids to school. Yet, when I realized that I was able to stay home with my kids, that this “old-fashioned act” was a choice, I untamed myself. As an untamed cheetah, I don’t act like a dog anymore, pursuing a career. Instead, I focus on unschooling my kids, which is my true nature.
Now that my oldest kid is eighteen years old and unschooling was a success, I would like to share my story with you. Every mom I know gets sentimental or teary-eyed when their children turn another year older. Some women even ask, “Why can’t they stay little forever?”
I loved every moment as my eldest got older. I was happy every year he grew and matured. When he turned eighteen I felt like I arrived at the final line of a long marathon. I made it, he made it, we made it safely.
My son just turned 18, and this is our story.
Chapter 1: How It All Started
“Mama,” Afrika said, "I'm not learning anything.”
The short sentence shocked me. My daughter was a seven-year-old first grader. I don't remember wanting to learn anything at that age. Why wasn't she happy just being a kid? Why did she want to learn?
Good for you! my little seven-year-old self thought. But then the grown-up in me kicked in. My mom instinct to protect took over. How heartbreaking that this seven-year-old little booger wanted to learn and wasn’t given the opportunity. She craved knowledge and wasn't getting any at her public school.
Afrika went on to explain that she spent a lot of time with her arms crossed on the table, head down. Because every time a kid behaved badly, the whole class was punished. For punishment, everyone had to put their heads down.
Hearing this was the last drop. It was time to leave public school and jump on the homeschool bandwagon.
Let me start from the beginning. When I was twenty-three years old, I became an undocumented immigrant. Initially, I came legally to America from Barcelona. For a year, I worked in a daycare with the proper paperwork. Unfortunately, my time to stay legally in the US expired for me.
When it was time for me to leave the country, I met Brian, my future husband. Our meeting led to my decision to extend my welcome in the US illegally. I wasn’t going to allow bureaucracy, laws, rules, and governments to decide my future. But that's for another book and another day.
Since I was undocumented, I wasn't allowed to legally work. This forced my teaching career to go on pause. I then became a nanny to a wonderful family with a Canadian father and American-Turkish mother .
While I was a nannying newlywed, I unexpectedly became pregnant. Fortunately, I had a great relationship with the family for whom I nannied. They allowed me to continue working for them with my baby boy tagging along.
Day after day, I took care of their three kids and my infant, Jaume. How fortunate to spend my baby’s first year with him, twenty-four seven! I was able to breastfeed him as long as my breasts allowed. I was able to witness every single milestone. And I saved money by not placing him in daycare while at work.
When the family didn’t need me anymore and I was finally able to work legally, I found another job. I was hired at a daycare, where I enrolled Jaume in the toddler room.
Working in that daycare was the first red flag of many. A wake-up call. I was very disappointed to see early childhood teachers handling the preschoolers so ignorantly wrong. They sprayed children with a water bottle to correct behavior. Threatened kids with a belt. Put disobedient toddlers in a closet for time out.
I was indignant.
My degree in special education allows me to work in a variety of school settings. In my home country of Spain, teachers must have a teaching degree in early childhood education from a university to work in the early childhood education field. The daycare teachers I knew back home, including my cousin Ariadna, are loving, caring, and patient. They understand that young children misbehave and make mistakes. They know about the damage physical or psychological abuse has on a child.
However, I quickly learned that daycares in Atlanta, Georgia, are full of teachers without a degree. Few have any knowledge of early childhood education. Those who do gain their knowledge from the director of the daycare, who helps teachers educate themselves to earn a degree or get a certification. But let me assure you, I saw plenty of teachers not applying the lessons taught in the continuing education classes and teacher workshops.
Another red flag waved at me when Jaume entered kindergarten. A new charter school opened in our neighborhood, an International Baccalaureate. As the foreigner I am, I was very interested in my kid attending an international school instead of the regular American public school. Even though the school didn’t teach Spanish, they taught Mandarin, and I liked their philosophy. I appreciated everything they stood for.
So I decided to enroll my son. Actually, I was so excited about the school, I applied to work there as well. I was hired as a kindergarten teacher.
Just like the daycare and other Atlanta schools I’d worked for, I noticed something. Schools tend to look great on paper. They have a great philosophy, they use a wonderful curriculum, it seems so cool, so great, so innovative, blah blah blah . . . But in reality, the promises made are all lies.
My mom, a woman with a very successful career, once told me that I see all the negatives in the school because I work on the inside. “If you were just a parent on the outside,” she insisted, “you wouldn’t see all the troubles.”
Dear mom, I refuse to be a blinded parent.